Gazan terrorists pounded southern Israel on Thursday evening with a barrage of rockets and mortar fire. Code Red alert sirens sent residents running to bomb shelters in communities throughout the South.
As a result of a mortar shell fired on the Eshkol Regional Council, a soldier was lightly wounded. Rocket fire and Israeli reprisals have continued throughout the week, bringing calls from some within Israel to carry out a large-scale operation in Gaza. Hamas warned Israel against launching such an offensive on Thursday, saying that Israel's previous conflicts with the group would be "a picnic" compared to what would follow should the IDF begin a large operation in Gaza."I promise you that one stupid move by your leaders will be enough to make us turn all of your communities, even those you might not expect, into targets and burning coals," a spokesman for Hamas's Kassam Brigades said at a press conference in Gaza.Some 30 rockets and mortar shells have landed in southern Israel since early Thursday, including two direct hits on residential buildings in Sderot. There were no injuries, but damage to the properties was reported.Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. The other rockets exploded in open areas.Residents of the communities surrounding Gaza were instructed to stay within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter.The IDF has initiated a limited deployment of forces toward the Gazan border in light of the increased rocket attacks.Civilians have seen buses with soldiers and military vehicles making their way down South. Despite the limited deployment, a senior military source maintained that "quiet will be answered with quiet."An IDF spokesman stated that, "Our policy regarding Gaza is one of deescalation and preparedness. The IDF is operating to safeguard the southern communities of Israel."Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said rocket fire from Gaza is terrorism that has no legitimacy."There is no doubt that Israel must defend the residents of the south," she stated. "However, the proposals from cabinet ministers to conquer Gaza and use collective punishment will only cause escalation and deterioration."Gal-On called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to show restraint and not give in to "extremists and populists who demand punishment without distinction."Conversely, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said "Hamas does not stop at redlines and thinks that children are a legitimate target."Therefore, the Israeli government must give a green light to the IDF and security forces to bring back quiet by all means necessary, even if they are not sterile," he added. "Hamas is responsible for what happens in Gaza and therefore it will bear the painful consequences."Lahav Harkov and Ben Hartman contributed to this report.